When Should I Apply for a Credit Card?
If you’re looking for purchasing power, a credit card is a great option. However, getting that cash flow isn’t guaranteed and you need to apply through a lender first.
If you’re approved – that’s great but getting denied is something no one wants. It can feel embarrassing, or you may feel rejected like you weren't good enough. The lender's decision to deny your application could be one of many reasons - a low credit score, a negative credit history, low income, or something else.
Getting denied also hurts because the lender conducts a hard inquiry on your credit when applying. This hard inquiry knocks your credit score down a bit and getting denied a credit card means you have nothing to show for it.
QUICK TIP: When you officially apply for a credit card (or any loan), you give the lender permission to look into your financial background and conduct a hard inquiry which can pull your credit score down lower and lower each time a hard inquiry is done.
SOO... WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO APPLY FOR A CREDIT CARD TO INCREASE MY CHANCES OF APPROVAL?
Here’s the truth… there's no season, month, or a certain hour of the day that'll automatically increase your chances of credit card approval. You must put in a little bit of work to increase your chances of credit card approval.
This means having a good credit score, a credit card paydown plan in place to pay off monthly balances, and so much more. I'll go down the list of when to apply so you know what a responsible credit card holder looks like.
At Skyla, we review hundreds and thousands of credit card applications - we've been for more than 60 years - we look at a couple of things before deciding whether approved or denied for a credit card application.
here's a quick look at when to apply for a credit card
when's the best time to apply for a credit card?
Again, there isn't a specific hour in the day or month that's best when applying for a credit card. When researching credit card issuers, you may come across some offering better interest rates than others or you may come across an 0% APR credit card offer but the best time to apply for a credit card could depend on a few things:
when you already HAVE A GOOD - EXCEPTIONAL CREDIT SCORE
If you have a good or exceptional credit score, your chances of qualifying for a credit card are high since lenders are confident that you'll repay the balance. Having a good or excellent credit score also means you're more than likely to qualify for a credit card with a low-interest rate so it'll cost less money to borrow from your lender.
Psst… just make sure when you do get and use the credit card to pay off your balance on time or in advance. This will help you avoid interest charges when paying off the debt.
WHEN YOU'RE READY TO ESTABLISH CREDIT CREDIT
Have you never borrowed before? Getting a credit card to establish credit will certainly help. But don't fish for the big-name credit cards – look for something for first-time borrowers like a secured credit card which is one of the quickest ways to establish credit.
To start, you put down a security deposit which will be your collateral when you open the account. The security deposit tells the lender that you're less of a risk. If you fail to pay your bill, the lender can take the funds from your deposit.
When you pay off your balance on time or in advance, that shows you're a responsible credit card holder, which ultimately is recorded on your credit report.
WHEN YOU'RE READY TO IMPROVE OR REPAIR YOUR CREDIT
If you're trying to fix your credit score - you might second guess applying for another credit card. You'll first want to check your credit report to fix any incorrect info that's negatively affecting your scoring. But having a revolving credit card can improve and help repair your credit. Psst… consider getting a secured credit card to help establish, improve, or repair your credit.
Just make sure you use the card responsibly. Doing things like repaying the lender on time or in advance, staying below your credit limit (30%), and more will help your credit score. Here are more ways to help maintain or improve your credit score.
WHEN YOU WANT TO MAKE A BIG PURCHASE
Having a credit card gives you purchasing power and is great when you want to purchase a flight, rent a car, buy furniture, or use it for sudden emergencies like a hospital bill. Depending on the credit card, you could also gain reward points, cash back, or earn other perks when making purchases, which is a bonus of using a credit card.
Before you apply and make that big purchase, make sure you have a plan in place to pay off your balance each month because you're not only repaying the amount you used to make the purchase, but you're also paying extra in interest.
AFTER you've been PRE-APPROVed
Getting a credit card after getting pre-approved means you met the lender's criteria for a particular credit card but it’s not a slam dunk approval. The credit card issuer typically informs you by mail (post mail or digital) that you've been pre-approved for your credit card, where they've conducted a soft pull on your financial background to see if you're a trusted person to lend to. (Psst… don’t worry, a soft pull does not affect your credit score.)
QUICK TIP: Getting pre-approved is a great way to see your chances of approval without getting hit with a hard inquiry on your credit report. If you decide to proceed with the credit card, then you must officially apply. This gives the lender permission to look further at your credit history.
WHEN YOUR CURRENT card has a high-INTEREST RATE and BALANCE
Having a high balance on a credit card with high interest can be daunting, especially when you're struggling to pay it off. Doing a balance transfer where you apply for an introductory 0% APR* credit card where you can transfer your existing balance to the new one without incurring fees for a specific time frame can help.
you shouldn't apply for a credit card if
- You don't have an income: A steady income is a must-have when applying for a credit card. Lenders need to know you'll be able to make your monthly payments if they were to lend to you.
- You're a compulsive spender: It's easy to see credit cards as a magic tool that allows you to buy without having physical cash on hand. Knowing this can make it hard to resist. If you're prone to overspending, try buying what you can afford. Walk out the door with only cash in your wallet or purse and leave the credit card at home. You can also create a list of things you need and make it visible, so it serves as a reminder.
- You can't manage your current debts: It doesn't make sense to rack up more debt than you can handle. The more debt you have, the higher your chances of missing a payment.
QUICK TIP: Did you know missed payments affect your credit score by 60-100 points. You can understand more about credit scores here.
- You don't have a budget in place: Having a budget gives you financial control. It makes it easier to stay on track with your spending and not miss a payment. Here are some budgeting tips you can do so you're in control of your credit card spending and other expenses.
ready to get a credit card? here's what you'll need to prepare
Whether you're a new borrower looking for your perfect credit card or you're an existing borrower looking for more cash flow, there’s one thing you absolutely must remember to do when owning a credit card - always pay off your balance.
The worst thing you can do as a borrower is miss a payment and allow your debt to pile up without having a debt paydown plan. It's a recipe for disaster! You could mess up your credit score and lenders will have a hard time trusting you as a borrower down the line.
Aside from knowing when to apply for a credit card, there are plenty more things you should know before getting a credit card, like knowing how they work, the types of interest is charged, important credit card terms... you know, all the things a responsible borrower should know before officially applying for a credit card. Check it out!
And, if you have a credit card history that needs some repairing, check out the importance of a credit score.. It provides insight on missing payments, and how to improve your credit score, and includes a free tool you can use anytime to help build your credit score.
As the Content Specialist and author of the Learning & Guidance Center, Yanna enjoys motivating others by uncovering all that's possible in the world of finance. From financial tips and tricks to ultimate guides and comparison charts, she is obsessed with finding ways to help readers excel in their journey towards financial freedom.
more resources for your credit card journey
What You Should Know Before Getting a Credit Card
Don’t know what to expect when getting a credit card? Here’s what you need so you can properly prepare and enjoy your credit card today.
17 min. read
What's the Most Important Thing to Understand About Credit Scores?
Need help understanding your credit score? Here’s what’s most important about credit scoring and the steps to take to improve it.
9 min. read